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Oakland rally raises concerns about public safety with city's budget shortfall

Oakland budget deficit spurs protests over public safety concerns
Oakland budget deficit spurs protests over public safety concerns 02:45

Amid a public safety crisis in Oakland and a projected $177 million budget deficit, on Sunday some residents sounded the alarm to demand the city not cut from public safety programs.

A small group of people rallied in downtown Oakland on Sunday afternoon. They said any kind of cut to the police and fire departments will endanger lives.

"We are concerned about Oakland today and Oakland tomorrow," said rally organizer Edward Escobar.

Some people worried the large deficit could result in less police officers in their neighborhood.

"The police officers that are usually here at the lake during the busy season are doing overtime.  So if they cut [police overtime], then there's a good chance we won't have those resources," said Leeann Alameda, chair of Lake Merritt Community Alliance.  

She and neighbors often have to call for officers to clear up lanes on Lakeshore Avenue and nearby streets. On recent weekends, large parties along the lake led to drivers double and triple-parking.  Some people even parked on the grass in the park.

"Emergency vehicles couldn't get through. We saw a fire truck get stuck on Bellevue (Avenue), couldn't get through because of all the illegal parking," said Alameda. "It was completely backed up, people couldn't leave or come home."

Alameda said many city workers won't come to address those traffic enforcement problems without police escort due to safety concerns.

While Mayor Sheng Thao had previously said she will priority public safety, there are concerns she will cut back on police overtime.

She and the city administrator are working on plans to close the gap, but they haven't revealed what cuts are being considered.

"We feel like we're at rock bottom. So if anything that has to do with security is cut, it's just going to get worse," said Baba Afolabi, a former Oakland business owner.

Afolabi said rampant car break-ins forced him to close his downtown sports bar, Mushin Sports Lounge, in March. He said customers stopped coming due to broken windows and he ran out of money.

"You pay everybody before you pay yourself. There were moments that I had to drive Uber just to pay out my staff. That's how hard it's been," said Afolabi.

As for Alameda, she acknowledged there are no easy solutions and any cuts will hurt the city's progress.

"It is a very stark budget deficit," said Alameda.

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